If your business is not actively using social media analytics, an appropriate starting point is to review a few basics.
A Working Definition of Social Media Analytics
Social media analytics — SMA — is the use of data management technology to study and use social media “conversations” in business decision-making about products, services and brands. A unique SMA focus is evaluating opinions and sentiment as opposed to traditional factual data used by businesses.
What Can Social Media Analytics (SMA) Do for You?
Regardless of how experienced or inexperienced you might be with social media analytics, “looking under the hood” of SMA “vehicles” at well-known companies can be an eye-opening experience. Walmart and PepsiCo are two especially useful illustrations to consider.
The Walmart SMA Experience — Walmart has an abundance of social media data with 300,000 social mentions each week. For example, Walmart Labs used social media conversations during 2011 to accurately anticipate heightened demand for cake-pop makers and electric juicers. The Labs team monitors Facebook and Twitter and sends data to Walmart’s purchasing managers. Walmart’s supply chain buying decisions now rely extensively on sentiment data mined from Twitter and Facebook.
The PepsiCo Social Media Analytics Experience — PepsiCo has used SMA for a number of years. For example, the company relied on social networks for a “DEWmocracy” promotion and has created new varieties that have been added to their brand as a result of social media analytics data — PepsiCo has sold 36 million cases of Mountain Dew since inception of new marketing efforts.
Here are three SMA lessons to be learned from Walmart and PepsiCo:
- Social media analytics can help companies adjust marketing strategies based upon sentiment analysis.
- SMA can serve as an “early warning system” about success or failure of new products and services.
- Social media analytics allows you learn from your customers on a real-time basis.
Getting Started With Social Media Data
Social media analytics has much to offer for companies of all sizes. One place to start is by assessing the multiple sources of customer opinions and sentiment at your disposal:
- Social networks — Facebook
- Microblogs — Twitter
- Photo-sharing — Flickr
- Video-sharing — YouTube
- Product/Service Reviews — Yelp
- Blogs — WordPress and your company’s website
The collective information to be evaluated by SMA includes both positive and negative opinions, likes and dislikes, complaints and general discussions. All of this data is coming directly from current and potential customers. It is vital data but can quickly become worthless if you don’t “do something” with it.
The “smart move” is to collect this data via opinion mining — traditionally known as “data mining” when used to collect factual data instead of opinions. The sheer amount of data might seem intimidating, but in reality social media analytics tools can help you to convert everything into more digestible “nuggets” of information. But it is important to realize that the process of social media analytics does involve the need to rely on both data management experts and specialized tools to get the job done — even Walmart relies upon their “Labs” unit for SMA help.
How to Analyze Social Media Data
The SMA process for getting from “raw sentiment data” to “information nuggets” used in daily business decisions involves several specialized activities. You might not need to use all of them, but here are the most common ways to analyze social media data:
- Creating a database — This is a key block in the SMA foundation, so take your time to make sure you get this part right.
- Performing text and sentiment analysis — Categorizing data as either positive or negative is a critical requirement.
- Using mathematical models — Essential in using data to predict buying behavior.
- Creating dashboards — Data visualization methods can convert unstructured social data into visual representations that can contribute to intuitive and timely decisions.
- Analyzing visual statistics — Decision science can help bridge the gap between “theory” and “actual decisions.”
The War for Talent in Social Media
As “the next big thing” on the technology and entertainment front, social media represents a promising career opportunity for those who relish the chance to combine dealing with chaos while unleashing creativity. Here are five social media careers that have critical skill shortages that have led to occasional battles among prospective employers:
- Social Media Analyst — Requires SEO, social media marketing and data analysis skills.
- Social Media Consultant — A specialized advisor who is well-versed in solving social media problems for businesses.
- Social Media Manager — The modern version of a marketing manager. Involves extensive flexibility in duties.
- Social Media Specialist — Implements marketing and customer care strategies. Requires marketing communications, content management and public relations skills.
- Social Media Coordinator — Coordinates all social media platforms.
Salaries and specific duties for social media positions will vary widely depending on size and business focus of the company.
Conclusions and the Next Step
The number of consumers using social media is still increasing at an impressive rate. In the modern age that all businesses are tackling on a daily basis, social media analytics is not an “optional” activity for companies that want to survive, expand and thrive in a competitive marketplace. Social media marketing depends on your ability to effectively use sentiment analysis and other relatively new SMA tools on a daily basis.
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– Research Optimus